The Internet Is Filled With Idiots
Posted On May 6, 2008
A little bird recently sent me this post and requested that I publish it. So I am.
I may be alone in this opinion, but I think reviewing anime and manga in an
annual publication is probably pointless. As the only academic journal
specifically for manga/anime studies, I buy Mechademia for the
academic work and only read reviews of academic texts. By the time the
journal comes out I’ll almost always have seen the anime or read a
review from one of the many non-academic magazines or websites. My
impression from the shelves of my local bookshop is also that a lot of
anime/manga titles being published are still in the form of beginners
guides, which are also not particularly useful to
Mechademia’s primary audience (or the audience I assume it has, I may
be completely wrong!).
Thanks, Sophie. No, you’re not wrong about Mechademia; many of its
readers are scholars, serious fans, and academics.
But let me try to explain something further about our reviews,
especially of manga and anime. There are, in general, three kinds of
reviews, Two we do not want; one we do. The two we do not want are
purchasing advice and comments/opinions about quality.
Purchasing advice refers to a review that tells the reader whether or
not they should buy or read the manga or anime being reviewed. The
**vast** majority of “reviews” on the internet are of this kind. Often
they are written in semi-literate Internetese (“Naruto is just SOOOO
kkkoooollll! AWWWsome!”) and record the writer’s enthusiastic joy in
the story or his (much of the time, it’s a he) detestation of
something. “I mean, what is so cool about Misa? She’s an airhead.
Light is much better off without her,” says this person about Misa
Amano from “Death Note” (I’m paraphrasing a real comment, BTW). You
can find lots and lots of these reviews on amazon.com, often signed
with names like “Otakuman”. As records of individual opinion, these
reviews are priceless; as serious reviews, they’re useless. We don’t
publish that kind of stuff.
The second kind of review we don’t publish centers on the writer’s
opinions about “quality.” These folks also inhabit the Internet is
vast numbers; they’re the people who solemnly tell you that the video
transfer on “Cutey Honey” is really very good. They go on knowingly
(if uninsightfully) about pixellation and the lack of audio fidelity
in the dubbing. Or they will praise the seiyuu — these people pride
themselves on knowing some Japanese words — for her superb rendition
of Masako from “Eri the Ninja Girl” (which I made up for the
occasion). Then they will go into rants about the hyperellipticism of
“Eri the Ninja Girl,” hoping to impress us all by his ability to spell
“hyperellipticism” (which I also made up for the occasion). We don’t
publish that kind of stuff either.
That takes care of the vast majority of reviews that actually exist
out there on the web and in the few print sources that publish
reviews. Most of them are careless, tossed-off-in-an-hour records of
half-baked opinion. Enthusiastic, misspelled, and ultimately useless.
The reviews we do publish are analytical essays about the manga or
anime in question. Analytical means that the reviewer has to explain
how the narrative is constructed and why, and explain what it means
and tells us. The ideal reaction to such a review is for the reader to
say “Oh, I see!” Our model is the kind of review that might be
published in the New York Times or the New Yorker — literate,
thought-through, with a theoretical framework that makes sense. It
will be worth reading five years from now.
A number of people on this listserve have written reviews for
Mechademia, and trust me, they’re very skilled. When one of these
folks reviews “Death Note”, there will be a lot to take home from that
review. In this case, the reviewer will be Susan Napier, who has
agreed to review “Death Note” for us. You are not going to hear
silliness about “What is so cool about Misa?” from *her*.
Another way of putting it is to say that Mechademia reviews of manga
and anime are short, focussed essays on one work that deal with its
internal aesthetic dynamics. So please do read some of our manga and
anime reviews and see what you think for yourself!